Clarinetists don’t typically have a reputation of being adventurous (our own Mort Weiss notwithstanding), but it isn’t for the lack of such practitioners as Ben Goldberg and Chris Speed working hard to punch holes into those perceptions. Add Aaron Novik to that list of clarinet insurgents. Novik, who once studied under Greenberg, has likewise reached back to ancient Hebrew music forms to push his own music forward, and his latest offering, Secrets Of Secrets, is one ambitious undertaking to achieve those results. Effectively conveying the ancient mysticism of a 13th century rabbi mystic, Eleazer Rokeach, Novik leads his all-star band through an enchanting mix of chamber, klezmer, jazz, and experimental metal. Supporting players include Fred Frith (electric guitar), Carla Kihilstedt (electric violin), Cornelius Boots (electric bass clarinet), The Real Vocal String Quartet (sans the vocal), the Jazz Mafia Horns, and Goldberg himself. Five extended but closely connected compositions can move from the pastoral to squonky and back again, making each piece self-contained multi-episodic musical dramas. Novik’s music here could qualify not only as a John Zorn Masada record, but even one of his better ones. Maybe that’s why it makes all the sense in the world that Secrets Of Secrets is proudly offered on Zorn’s record label.
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‘Half Notes’ are quick-take thoughts on music from Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.